The largest panel room at Awesome Con was packed for Danai Gurira’s Q&A session on Saturday, which started out with a few things I didn’t even know about the actress – and a lot of jokes about how we weren’t there to hear about any of them except The Walking Dead.

I was surprised to learn that before she picked up Michonne’s katana, Gurira was already an award-winning playwright. Her previous works include Eclipsed, focusing on four women held captive by a rebel leader fighting against the Liberian government in 2003, and In the Continuum, focusing on two women dealing with HIV after learning they’ve been infected by the men in their life. During the panel, she spoke of her next play, Familiar, and how it was inspired by her family. The play follows a Midwestern bride whose family is shocked by her wedding rituals.

A second topic of discussion was Gurira’s fledgling charity organization, Almasi, which she helped to co-found. According to the website, it is a “Zimbabwean American Dramatic Arts Collaborative Organization,” with goals to professionalize the Dramatic Arts Industry in Zimbabwe. They run an exchange program with actors that send American actors to Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean actors to the United States to learn, grow, and develop their skills as actors, sharing their experiences across cultures. As a still relatively new organization, it is amazing to see what they have accomplished in such a small amount of time. It’s nice to see Gurira, who was born in the United States, but raised for many years in Zimbabwe during her youth, empowering others in the dramatic arts.

Arguably, these were the most interesting topics of conversation during the Q&A panel, but we finally reached the topic of discussion that most where waiting for – The Walking Dead. She revealed that she thought the scattering of the cast during the latest season was a “rich choice” and allowed for the opportunity to focus on certain characters and stories that otherwise might not have been possible to focus on in the show’s format.


Spoilers for the season four finale! During that last shot of the season and tense reunion with most of the cast, Gurira told the story of everyone piling into a van to get to the shooting location and somehow they all ended up singing ‘Get Lucky.’ She also shared how, during one day of shooting when they were all delirious from work and heat, Chad Coleman and the rest of the cast made up an entire song about a female zombie without any teeth. It’s nice to hear about the lighter moments on a show where Gurira admits, “You have to bring it every day.”

She shared how the physical transformation into Michonne really helps her get into the character and that she uses a half-katana in stabbing scenes, which helps it to look more realistic than if she were just given a handle and pretending to wield a blade. When asked what she felt was the most disturbing element of an apocalypse, Gurira answered that it was the pain of seeing past lives walking around as corpses. She specifically mentioned The Walking Dead season four premiere where Rick and Carl enter the BBQ place to find a note from Joe Jr. about his father, asking passersby to ‘Please do what I couldn’t.’ as his walker-father stumbles around after them.

Gurira speaks of Michonne fondly and is proud of the way Michonne always envisions herself as coming out the winner of any situation. I’m personally glad they’ve started to show Michonne as finally opening up and having a personality beyond scowling ball of anger in this past season as she grows. Gurira herself displays a lot of that same drive and was engrossing to listen to throughout the entire Q&A. Here’s hoping that Awesome Con brings this caliber of guests again next year!

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